Portland police released a video Thursday and a longer explanation of why they placed hoods and headphones on several protesters who blocked traffic at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office the day before in Southwest Portland.
The video, taken by police, shows officers cutting a “sleeping dragon” – devices that use pipe, tape and other materials to bind arms together — off one man wearing one of the form-fitting hood.
Some demonstrators at the scene complained about the tactic, and police spokesman Sgt. Chris Burley said the Police Bureau received questions about what officers were doing as stark images of the hooded protesters flew out on social media.
Using the equipment is part of training from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on how to safely remove sleeping dragons and similar devices, Burley said. Sometimes protesters fashion them out of cast iron, metal, concrete, tar and other materials, he said.
The device typically works by having people put their hands inside a pipe and lock their arms and wrists together with chains, handcuffs or another method, Burley said. Officers have to remove the sleeping dragon device before removing any of the people attached to them so they’re not injured, he said.
The flame-retardant hood protects people from sparks that come from the use of power tools and the headphones decrease the noise, he said. On Wednesday, officers used utility knives and wire cutters to cut the devices, which consisted of plastic pipe, chicken wire, yarn, fabric, steel bolts and chains. The hoods protected the protesters from flying debris, he said.
“It’s not a common tactic, but other jurisdictions use similar methods when encountering these devices on protesters,” Burley said. “We use all these materials as a precaution to make sure the person is safe. There have been instances in other places where a person sees or hears the tools being used to free them and tries to cause harm themselves with the tools being used to help them.”
Burley said Portland officers used a similar tactic with a helmet and headphones in May 2015 when 41-year-old Tim Norgren blocked a private railroad line overnight at a Northwest Portland fuel terminal and locked his arm in a large barrel filled with cement and other materials.
Police used power tools to saw Norgren’s arm free, Burley said. Norgren was charged with second-degree criminal trespass. The case was later dismissed after he completed community court, records show.
On Wednesday, no one was hurt when police to cut the devices, he said. Five of the protesters were bound together with the sleeping dragons, he said.
Amina Rahman, one of those protesters, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday that officers also tied a tourniquet around her arm. She said they told her it would stop the bleeding if they accidentally cut her.
Rahman said she believed the officers were using a “scare tactic,” not protecting protesters.
Authorities cited and released six protesters for failure to comply with verbal warnings and blocking a federal building, said Federal Protective Services spokesman Rob Sperling. He didn’t release their names.
They were among a few dozen people with a group called End Deportations Now Collaboration who had gathered at the front of the ICE building, chanted and sang for hours as police and security guards looked on until arrests began.
Demonstrators blocked a bus carrying immigrants to a Tacoma detention center. Demonstrators also blocked more than 50 people, including workers, couldn’t enter or leave the ICE building during the protest, Burley said.
Portland police arrested Eli Richey, 37, on suspicion of violating court-ordered restrictions at the same demonstration, but it wasn’t related to the protest, police said.
Samantha Matsumoto of The Oregonian/OregonLive staff contributed to this report.